Hit with cancer, misfortune, Jay still hopes to give back

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Son, Stephen Schwartz (left) and sister, Sue Lukrofka, are part of her wellness team, said Patricia Jay (middle), who recently was diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer.What do you do when “the equivalent of a hurricane lands on your bare head”?

If you are Patricia Jay, a single mother with three sons, you reach out to your community for help, and you look ahead and set goals for the future.

Jay’s oldest son, Stephen Schwartz, 19, is the one who described the series of events that have hit his family as the equivalent of a storm. His mother lost her job in October 2012 and was diagnosed with a recurrence of Stage 3 breast cancer on Feb. 6. Then, in the midst of Jay’s daily chemo treatments, the family was told they must move by May 30 from their Milwaukie residence, where they have lived for the past two years.

Jay’s claim for Social Security and disability is still under consideration, so the family has no money coming in.

“Everybody went into survival mode,” Jay said. “The job search ends, the unemployment insurance ends, since I can’t be available five days a week to look for work. The question is: How do we get through each day?”

In spite of her illness and other misfortunes hitting her family, Jay, 52, is still able to count her blessings.

She has received “amazing” support from her wellness team at Kaiser Medical Center, her sons, and her sister, Sue Lukrofka, who recently moved to Milwaukie.

“We do a lot of laughing,” Lukrofka said, adding that the family also copes by creating music. Jay played the piano all through high school, and now plays for the DragonScales Choir, a non-audition group of mixed voices, once associated with a Portland Dragon Boat team, but now open to anyone.

Schwartz described the family dynamic as individuals who work well as a team.

He cooks for his mom, and he and his two brothers, Tyler Jay, 14, and Luke Jay, 12, help keep the house together. Lukrofka provides emotional support, while accompanying Jay to her doctor and chemo appointments.

Jay said she also is blessed by being on the Oregon Health Plan. She noted that she has no co-pays, and the plan even pays for one of her medications, an anti-nausea pill that costs $600 per dose.

“If I didn’t have this amazing medicine, I couldn’t do all the things I’m able to do, like take the kids to school and help with their homework,” she said.

Reaching out

Jay said she has not been sitting back, just waiting to see what will happen. She has set up a benevolent trust fund at Chase Bank, in the name of Patricia Jay, so that people can make donations. She has a Facebook page and is part of the website Fundrazr, where people can search for her name and make donations.

Hit Machine, a local '80s band, is considering doing a fundraiser for her, and she is checking into local housing options.

The family wants to stay in Milwaukie because the community has been really good to them, Jay said, adding that Schwartz has worked at the Milwaukie Farmers Market and she has volunteered with the Ledding Library.

“This is the longest we’ve stayed in a community, and this has been our favorite,” Schwartz said.

Giving back to the community is a concept that Jay grew up with, so it was a natural thing for her to choose that field as an adult.

She has been on the Kern Park Christian Church worship team for 17 years, and started a program there called Through the Storm, for survivors of domestic violence.

She worked for the Portland Business Alliance, learning all about nonprofits that could help people on the streets of Portland.

“If my mom had a superpower, it would be finding tools to help anybody on the streets. Her presence in downtown Portland is still felt,” Schwartz said.

The job that she lost last October was in the mental health field, where she worked helping people overcome barriers to employment.

Future goals

Jay is determined to have a future and help others as well, so when she comes through all this and out the other side, her goal is to become a patient navigator for Kaiser.

“I want to help people who have barriers to care navigate through the health care system. I want to teach them how to handle all the details of their illness. This is the new wave of care,” she said, noting that many hospitals are going to have this position in place by 2015.

“I wish this for everyone; this isn’t just about me. Cancer affects each of us differently, and we are going to learn through this and work through this and come out on a better end,” she said.

“I want to thank all the people who have reached out to us with their prayers and financial support. I know I have a community of people around us who love us, and I want to say thank you for loving our family,” Jay said.

The American Cancer Society sent Jay and her three sons to Salem for ACS Lobby Day, and paid for them to stay at the Red Lion Hotel there.

“It was very important for us to speak with our legislators regarding issues that affect all of our health. Thanks especially to Ryan Price, ACS district executive director, for faithfully checking in with me and my family, offering encouragement, help in any way and for spreading our story,” she said.

“I want to use what has been given to me to give back.”

Fast Facts

Call or go into any Chase Bank location to donate to Patricia Jay’s Benevolent Trust Fund.

Visit the website and search for Patti Jay, to donate money to her family. She also has a Patti Jay Facebook page.

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